I was having a conversation with friends recently about the acceptability of swearing; two of them were agreeing that they would both be quite shocked if they heard anyone say “fuck” at work.

This made my think about how my perspectives on such things have changed. If I’m honest back when I was working in a highly professional office environment I’d have probably been quite surprised to hear such swear words but after a few years in a traditionally “working class” job I guess I’m now immune – pretty much all speech is liberally littered with swear-words and the desk managers and drivers will routinely call each other “cunts” and every name under the sun as a matter of course.

To be honest I don’t really find such language an issue as I do quite like swearing – it’s just another facet to our rich and varied language and a well chosen swear-word can often hit the nail on the head during a conversation.

Anyway, the discussion got me thinking about what I do find offensive at work which is the rampant, seemingly ingrained bigoted attitudes to race and colour that I have to listen to day in, day out.

(I’ve obfuscated words from here on as I don’t want search engines finding them and don’t want to post the actual words myself)

As some typical examples: at Royal Mail there was a guy who stated “I fucking hate Pa.kis!” and then recounted a story about how he and his friends had beat up an Asian guy who was arguing with his (white) girlfriend. Another bloke who’d been inside recounted how he’d been fighting with a black man and burned him badly by forcing him up against some hot water pipes; “I hate black bastards; some of them are alright but they’re dirty bastards” was his verdict.

I guess these are more extreme examples but where I work now there is a daily deluge of abuse about “Pa.kis”, “Ni.ggers”, “Coo.ns”, “Muslims”, “Spades”, etc, etc. It’s like a sick joke from the 70s or something. Before working at such places, I really thought these kinds of attitudes were dying away but nope, in Worksop they’re alive and kicking.

I find it extremely depressing as it’s so widespread amongst everyone, both the other drivers and the “management”; it’s endemic.

One of the most annoying things is that because I’m white they automatically assume that I feel the same way. When I won’t laugh at their racist jokes I’ll sometimes get a sly look but fuck them, I’m not going to join in to fit in. It’s worse when I’ve been getting on well with somebody – a lot of these guys are otherwise sound and good fun but when they start peddling the same old crap I lose all respect for them.

I wonder how many of them really believe this stuff – do they just come out with it to fit in or because they’ve never thought about it? Certainly some of them go out of their way to make their hatred clear, but others don’t seem so convinced.

One thing that is quite interesting to observe is their attitudes to the Eastern Europeans, of which there are many, who work at our place. They seem confused because hey, these people look kind of like “us”, dont’ they? So instead they just post “Poles go home” style comments and carve swastikas into the toilet cubicle walls…with the occasional NF and Combat 18 logo thrown in for good measure.

Should I expect any different from people in a small, northern, hard-working ex-mining town? Yes, I really think I should. Surely in 2010 these sorts of attitudes should be becoming a thing of the past by now?

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